Retail is poised to become one of the top five fastest-growing sectors across the Asia-Pacific region by 2022, with the Internet of Things (IoT) playing a pivotal role in driving its momentum.
For retailers globally, IoT represents transformative possibilities across all of their operations, but most importantly the way in which they attract and keep customers in an increasingly competitive, globalised marketplace.
Indeed, by leveraging all of a customer’s shopping touch points, APAC retailers are using IoT technologies to enhance their omnichannel offerings and harness the vast amounts of information at their fingertips—ranging from point-of-sale to consumer browsing behaviour and demographics, according to Adobe’s “Digital Trends in Retail” report (PDF). (CMO.com is owned by Adobe.)
IoT is among a list of “potentially game-changing technological trends [that] will undoubtedly have a powerful impact,” the report says.
We take a look at three ways APAC retailers are putting IoT tech to work.
Improving CX: Beacons And Location Marketing
First introduced by Apple in 2013, beacons—small Bluetooth devices that send alerts to smartphones based on location proximity—have taken their time catching on in Asia Pacific. That’s all about to change.
A 2018 report by Graphical Research says the beacon technology market in APAC is expected to be worth US$9 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of over 100% that’s largely due to the mobile proliferation in the region.
One retailer experimenting with beacon-powered location services is Australian liquor chain Dan Murphy’s, which last year trialled a new format store on the Gold Coast designed to save customers time and provide them with a seamless end-to-end experience. Using the Dan Murphy’s App, customers can place an order online and receive a push notification when their orders are ready to be picked up, according to The Shout. From there, customers can use the app to alert the store when they are close to the store, or if their location services are turned on, the store’s 400-meter geofence will automatically check them in and let staff know they are approaching so they can ensure the order is ready for collection.
The service has since been implemented in four additional stores across the country.
Automating The Shopping Process: RFID
Last year in Japan, Panasonic and Trial Company opened the industry’s first “RFID-based walk-through automatic checkout solution” featuring Trial’s radio frequency identification device tagging, designed to manage manufacturing and distribution data.
In the experimental shop “Trial Lab,” a standard supermarket UPC bar code is replaced by smart labels that use RFID tagging. RFID tags are intelligent bar codes that can talk to a networked system to track every product put in a shopping cart, allowing the customer to automatically checkout by walking through a checkout lane.
With the development of more sophisticated IoT technology, unstaffed stores also are quickly becoming a reality. Unstaffed stores combine technologies, such as RFID, facial recognition, and image recognition, to track retail activity. Cameras placed throughout the stores recognize customers’ movements and generate heat maps of their activity to monitor traffic flow, product selection, and customer preferences to help optimize inventory, product displays, and all facets of store management.
One company using RFID tech is Chinese e-commerce store JD.com, which launched its first unstaffed convenience store in Beijing in October 2017. It now operates over 20 unstaffed stores across China and is bringing the technology to one of its Indonesian stores, according to China Daily.
Seamlessly Connecting Online And Offline: ERP Systems
For Indian electronics and lifestyle retailer Tata CLiQ, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a critical part of its omnichannel strategy, particularly for creating seamless online and offline touch points between its physical and digital outlets.
An ERP system is a cloud-based resource in which an organisation’s core business processes are centralised, integrated, and managed in real time via software and technology solutions.
According to Niranjan Sane, head of customer retention at Tata CLiQ, store-level inventory integration is one of retail’s toughest challenges. He cited cases like browse online/buy offline, shop online/return to store, and get delivery from your nearest store as scenarios in which the company deploys its ERP system to create a smoother experience for customers.
“The solution involves connecting multiple ERP systems and store-level POS with a centrally intelligent platform that can maintain and serve this information in real time,” he explained. “Product-level tagging is key since inventory on display is the hardest to keep a track of, due to the latency of data between the physical stock and POS systems. IoT can play a key role in stitching the gaps and keep a trace of unit level inventory.”